Blackthorn, by Elizabeth Pulford

My name is Blackthorn.
I am in a dream, running free again through the great woods of Gurcross. My bare feet skim across the rough ground. I carry a spear. It is light and easy to handle. Tied around my head is a band stained with my own blood. I am a Trahern warrior.
I jolt awake. The dream vanishes. My father’s voice stays in my head. Yet how is this so when he is dead and gone?
The forest is deathly still; no breath stirs except my own, frozen against the darkening moon. My body aches, curled and cramped within this tiny space – a a hollow in the rotting trunk of a giant oak. It is my sanctuary.

Twelve year old Alyana is alone in the world. Her mother died less than a year ago, now her father is gone too. She has two choices: to live with her priest uncle and his family or to be a warrior like her father. She chooses the latter, giving herself the name ‘Blackthorn’ and escaping into the forest where she feels most at home. But life in the forest is very tough, much tougher than she ever imagined. Winter brings snow and an awareness that previously she has only played at survival. She realises there is much she must learn if she is to be a warrior, indeed if she is to survive at all. Her father’s advice, given as she grew, is constantly in her head, guiding her on when she falters.

Blackthorn is set in a time where tribal rivalries were strong. The strength of a people was in their ability to protect their own. And that meant warriors. Alyana’s father was a warrior and she is convinced that it is also her destiny. Told in the first person, Alyana refers to herself in the third person when she talks about her warrior-self, Blackthorn. Blackthorn is told in present tense bringing the reader close to the action. There is plenty of action as Alyana scrabbles her way through the time after her father’s death. She struggles with his death, her own impetuous nature and her fledgling survival skills. Alyana grows and matures, learning from her mistakes, remembering her father’s counsel.

Recommended for mid-upper primary readers.

Blackthorn, by Elizabeth Pulford
Walker Books 2008
ISBN: 9781921150470